Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Chad Lahr’s Businesses Are Founded With Pride in the Finger Lakes

Research shows that most successful entrepreneurs have multiple income streams.

Chad Lahr, Founder and President, Community Proud ApparelCase in point: a young and accomplished Finger Lakes entrepreneur, Chad Lahr.

The owner of Community Proud Apparel in Geneva, New York is about to launch his seventh business venture—FLX Hydration—offering IV therapy to treat dehydration and fatigue, and support athletic performance and wellness.

Lahr said it’s a popular concept in busy tourist areas like Las Vegas and Key West, and he’s joining a local doctor to bring the first one to the Finger Lakes. It will soon open in downtown Geneva.

But Lahr doesn’t measure success in numbers only. The 40-year-old serial entrepreneur is also a servant leader, committed to helping other businesses and his community thrive.

“I’m focused on building a strong team of people who are united to help serve our community,” he said. “Success comes from helping enough other people get what they want. It’s a byproduct of service and value.”

Growing a hometown business

Lahr was born and raised in Geneva. After graduating from Canisius College in Buffalo in 2001, he returned to his hometown.

At the age of 22, while working a full-time job in sales, he bought his first duplex. He lived in one apartment and rented out the other, quickly learning the benefits of passive income.

He now owns and operates several rental properties in Geneva under the name Legacy Properties.

Community Proud LogoThat business, combined with his full-time job, enabled him to build up enough income to start his flagship company, Community Proud Apparel, in 2016.

It was an opportunity to capitalize on Geneva’s economic growth.

“As more businesses were moving into Geneva and the area, I saw that there was a need for people to market their business,” said Lahr.

The company began by offering screen printed and embroidered apparel and other promotional products. Last October, Lahr purchased a nearby downtown business, Space Vinyl. That allowed him to expand Community Proud’s portfolio to include banners, stickers, signage, and car and storefront window vinyls.

But Lahr’s larger vision was to grow the company into a one-stop marketing shop. Earlier this year, Community Proud began offering digital marketing services, including graphic design, website development, search engine optimization, pay-per-click, and social media management.

“We offer A to Z services, really anything a business would want for marketing, under one roof,” said Lahr. “That’s one of our biggest competitive advantages, offering all those services and then standing behind the product.”

Community Proud employs nine people, most of them added over the last year as the company has rapidly grown and now serves customers in several states.

“Giving our customers a good first experience and having quality service and products has helped us grow,” he said.

That, plus a personal touch, has enabled Community Proud to compete with large, online companies like Custom Ink and Vistaprint.

“Especially when businesses are starting out, they like being able to sit down with someone and talk about strategy,” Lahr said. “And to be able to see and feel the different types of apparel options, from shirts to caps.”

I Heart FLX T-shirtCreating the official T-shirt of the Finger Lakes

In 2017, Lahr joined his cousin, Gordon Lahr, to start another apparel company, I Heart Finger Lakes, the maker of the popular I Heart FLX T-shirt.

The idea began with a sketch of a logo on a napkin, featuring a heart surrounding the eleven lakes of the region. It sat in Gordon’s sock drawer for a year, until the cousins decided to go into business together.

“He texted me a picture of the logo and I fell in love with it,” Lahr said. “I emailed my designer and a week later, we printed a bunch of shirts.”

Chad and Gordon then took them to some of the larger wineries in the area.

“We visited seven different places and five of them put substantial orders in on the spot,” Lahr said. “So we knew we had something interesting.”

The I Heart FLX tees are now sold in over 50 locations throughout the Finger Lakes, as well as online. The company also sells hoodies, hats and baby onesies.

It recently landed a significant deal with Wegmans to sell the shirts in five of its stores in the region.

“That was a huge milestone for us,” said Lahr. “It will really help our brand develop.”

The tees have also become a big hit thanks to social media. The I Heart Finger Lakes Facebook page showcases photos of customers proudly wearing their shirts in front of attractions worldwide.

“We’ve had all 50 states and over 30 countries represented,” said Lahr.

Entering the restaurant business

Lahr also owns Lake Street Storage in Penn Yan and co-owns Vino and The Beasts, a 5K obstacle run through Finger Lakes vineyards. The eighth annual event, expected to attract about 1,500 participants, will be held in August at Three Brothers Wineries and Estates.

Opus Store FrontIn April, he again partnered with family to purchase Opus, a trendy Geneva eatery.

“I was interested in it because it was a successful 10-year-old company with a good track record and only a block away from Community Proud Apparel,” said Lahr.

His sister-in-law, who has extensive restaurant management experience, runs day-to-day operations.

“Opus has been a great new add-on and another way I’m more heavily investing in Geneva,” he said.

Lahr continues to capitalize on new opportunities—and to be the driver of his success.

“Having a set structure at a desk wasn’t for me,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be independent, to be an entrepreneur. It was always in my blood.”

“I also knew owning my own businesses would provide me the opportunity to hopefully build a legacy to leave behind for my children, Colby and Maxton,” he added.

Lahr’s wife, Jessica, named Mrs. New York 2015, is a co-owner of the businesses. She’s an entrepreneur, too—the owner of Jessica Elle Beauty, which provides makeup services to bridal, pageant, fashion editorial and commercial clients.

As his businesses grow, so too does Lahr’s immense pride in the Finger Lakes.

“It’s an amazing place to live. I planted my flag here and I’m passionate about Geneva and the area,” he said. “That passion helps to grow our businesses.”

Community Proud Apparel

423 Exchange Street
Geneva, NY 14456

I Heart Finger Lakes

315-719-4971 or 315-719-1218


486 Exchange Street
Geneva, NY 14456

Krista Gleason is a contributor to the Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal. She is a freelance writer and owner of Gleason Writes in the beautiful Finger Lakes.

« View all posts